by Karen Harper
NAL, $15.00, 376 pages
Many books have been written about the era of King Henry VIII and his six wives – some from his point of view, and many others from that of his wives and mistresses. Karen Harper’s novel, The Queen’s Governess, takes a different approach – showing the lives of Henry, Anne Boleyn, and their daughter Elizabeth through the eyes of an intelligent and earnest governess, risen from simple beginnings.
Through the private journal of Katherine Champernowne, we experience her humble childhood, a chance encounter that starts her rise toward privilege, and her determined choices that take her deep into the secret lives of the English royal courts. At first serving as a reluctant spy, Kat eventually befriends Anne Boleyn, who entrusts her young daughter, Elizabeth, to the governess’s keeping. The relationship between Kat and her bright, lively charge is touching and full of mutual devotion. As the young princess grows, Kat becomes invaluable to Elizabeth’s upbringing, steering her toward her then unknown destiny.
Although the story’s narrator is intriguing and unique, some readers may be let down by the author’s simplistic writing style and lack of satisfying details. However, for those looking for an easy-to-read historical novel told from a unique perspective, this would be one to pick up.
Reviewed by Aimee Rasmussen